More on Definition of Outcomes vs. Objectives

I was asked for more explanation on the differences between Outcomes and Objectives.

  • The Outcome is the effect that we want to see happen in the lives of our clients.
  • The Objective is the thing that we must achieve in order to cause the results in the lives of our clients.
  • Outcomes are written independently of us.
  • Objectives are written to tell us what we must achieve, so they are written for us.

My boss put it like this: A simple way to differentiate between Outcomes and Objectives is that Objectives focus on intended results, whilst Outcomes focus on achieved results. Objectives also clarify how we get to the Outcomes; what needs to be accomplished in order for the Outcomes to be achieved.

Outcome based thinking has become standard in much of the commercial world. For example, businesses are much more focused on levels of customer satisfaction than the wait time on customer service phone answering systems. Wait time on customer service answering systems would have an impact on customer satisfaction, but if you can achieve customer satisfaction by some completely different means (e.g. change product design to have few faults, use live chat customer service rather than phone calls) then the end problem is solved.

As a result of this, some major donors to Christian ministry in the US have made donations dependent upon outcomes rather than activities. The first example I heard about was the McClellan Foundation, that was funding the Book of Hope ministry. Book of Hope was distributing Bibles in the developing world, and was being funded along the lines of “$x puts y Bibles in the hands of z children”. This led to a mentality of “our job is to distribute Bibles” regardless of their impact on people’s lives. The McClellan Foundation said it didn’t want to fund Bibles being distributed, but to see children who follow Jesus in the target countries. As a result of this, the Book of Hope ministry changed its emphasis to distribution of Bibles and teaching from them. Continued funding from the McClellan Foundation was dependent upon before-and-after qualitative surveys in the target demographics. Prior to the project a survey is taken asking key questions (e.g. Do you know who Jesus is?, Do you lie to your parents?). After the ministry the survey is taken again, and the impact of the ministry on the children is assessed.

From a leadership perspective, I think that Outcomes are better goals to set for staff because they give more freedom in implementation by the staff in order to achieve the desired end result.

Some more specific examples of Outcomes vs. Objectives:

Example A:

  • Outcome: Everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.
  • Objective: Spiritual movements launched everywhere containing people who truly follow Jesus by end 2020.

Example B:

  • Outcome: 100 students in the University of Warsaw living a Spirit filled life.
  • Objective: Spirit filled life taught and demonstrated to student leaders in University of Warsaw by June 30 2015.

Example C:

  • Outcome: No Eastern Europe staff leave our organization because of lack of funds.
  • Objective: 100% of Eastern Europe staff are fully funded by Dec 31 2016.

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